By Allister Adel
Maricopa County Attorney
Division Chief, Training and Post-Conviction
At the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office, we’re constantly looking for ways to serve our community better. It’s incumbent on us to be diligent in the prosecution and conviction of those who have committed crimes — but we also cannot do our jobs in a vacuum, without considering that people’s lives are at stake.
One new way we’re enforcing our laws is through our new Home Detention Program for those convicted of Driving Under the Influence of alcohol. The Home Detention Program is a new tool that gives us more flexibility to provide consequences for those who commit a DUI but may not need to serve the full amount of jail time — especially during the pandemic.
By way of background, Arizona law requires DUI offenders to serve a certain amount of jail time for their offense, although if certain conditions are met, the law also allows a judge to order a portion of that jail time to be served on home detention or with continuous alcohol monitoring. This provides prosecutors and the courts with some flexibility when determining a fair sentence.
The Home Detention Program acknowledges that serving jail time can cause extraordinary strain on families, such as parents with small children, those who are caregivers for loved ones, and those who would otherwise lose their jobs. So, if we can avoid jail time for lesser offenses, or for those who are committing a first-time offense, it can be a good compromise. We can ensure justice is served but avoid creating new issues or exacerbating the same stress points that could lead to recidivism.
A number of Valley municipalities have Home Detention programs and have operated those programs very successfully over the years with the help of outside vendors providing ankle monitors and alcohol testing devices. However, Maricopa County didn’t have a Home Detention program until we started this new program over the summer.
That meant that if you were arrested prosecuted for DUI in a city court, you faced a different set of and potential outcomes than if your case was adjudicated in a county court. That is to say, if your DUI was handled in a city court, you could do Home Detention, but not if your DUI was cited into a county justice court — until now. With Maricopa County’s new program, we’ve leveled the playing field and make punishment more consistent across geographic boundaries.
The County’s new Home Detention Program includes devices to monitor the offender’s location and alcohol consumption to verify compliance with their sentence. It results in significant savings of taxpayer dollars because taxpayers don’t have to foot the bill for an offender’s jail time or their medical care while in custody.
The program ensures that those who break the law are punished appropriately, but at minimal expense to taxpayers and with an eye toward protecting families and communities. And during the pandemic, the program also keeps jail populations lower, lessening the spread of COVID-19. We didn’t set out to build the program in response to the pandemic, but the timing turned out to be fortunate as we’ve been able to reduce the number of those serving time in the jail system.
In partnership with the courts and law enforcement agencies across the Valley, the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office and its dedicated professionals are here to serve Maricopa County residents while making it the safest possible place to live. Efforts like the Home Detention Program are helpful tools in administering justice while meeting the needs of our community.
If you’d like to learn more about our work, visit MaricopaCountyAttorney.org